Martin Scorsese’s decades-spanning career is legendary, from movies like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver from the ’70s, to modern classics of the 2000s like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Departed. The director has made some of the best movies of all time, however apparently there is a world where some of our favorites could’ve had a different director. Scorsese recently opened up about making some of his most famous flicks, and why he didn’t initially want to make some of his his best movies, like Goodfellas.
Ahead of the release of his latest epic, Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese chatted with GQ about his directing career and some of the movies that cemented him in history as one of our greatest filmmakers. When the conversation turned to Goodfellas, Scorsese admitted that he had apprehensions about taking on the project. He said:
This seems so strange now, especially considering Scorsese’s name almost seems synonymous with the gangster genre, and the filmmaking style he brings to the characters. Since Goodfellas he has dipped into the genre a number of times, for movies like The Departed, Gangs of New York, and The Irishman, and all of which brought something different to the subject matter. It’s almost impossible to imagine a time where the director may want to distance himself. Thankfully he ended up helming the ’90s classic, and it took another filmmaker Scorsese respected to convince him to join the project. He said:
This sounds like a “one for you, one for me” situation with Warner Bros. which definitely paid off. I can’t think of another director that could’ve brought the same humor or intensity to the crime world depicted in the scene. Scorsese put together one of the most memorable movie ensembles with the film, including a star-making performance from Ray Liotta and career-defining roles for Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. While the apprehension is understandable, I’m so glad Scorsese changed his mind and audiences got his version, and likely the best possible version, of Goodfellas.
This wasn’t the only time Scorsese had doubts about attaching himself to a movie. He initially didn’t want to be involved in The Wolf of Wall Street. Once again, he felt stylistically the movie was too similar to movies he had already done before. He compared his misgivings to how he also felt about making his gritty boxing movie, Raging Bull. The director explained:
He went on to explain that through Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort character, that he was able to find something unique that he could infuse into the script. The comparisons to Goodfellas are understandable, considering they both feature the rise and fall of men as they gain more power and money. They also both feature quippy narration from their central characters.
However, The Wolf of Wall Street allowed Scorsese to truly experiment with scale and the unexplored world of Wall Street in the ’80s and ’90s. It feels more contemporary than some of Scorsese’s other films, and he brightens up the source material with big set pieces and incredible performances by DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Margot Robbie. Once again, I think we can all be grateful that the director changed his mind, and gave the world these iconic cinematic experiences.
You can see Martin Scorsese’s latest ensemble drama, Killers of the Flower Moon, which hits theaters on October 20th, in addition to being available for AppleTV+ subscribers. You can also revisit Goodfellas by renting the gangster flick on Amazon, and are also able to check out The Wolf of Wall Street with a Netflix subscription.